Why Are NFL Players Protesting The National Anthem? They're Kneeling Because Of Colin Kaepernick
Since publicly imploring NFL owners to fire players who kneel in protest during the national anthem before football games during a rally on Friday, Sept. 22, President Donald Trump has drawn criticism for people who have accused him of starting a divisive culture war and challenging first amendment rights. Trump's words brought more player protests, during this weekend's games, which led to more conversations and arguments around the issue. The ensuing response to Trump's words, from teams and players across the league, has since begged the question: Why are NFL players protesting the national anthem in the first place?
The critics include a member of Trump's own party, Republican Senator Ben Sasse (NE), who said over Twitter that "Trump wants you to kneel--because it divides the nation, with him and the flag on the same side."
On the one hand, many players and teams demonstrated during the past weekend under the banner of "team unity."
Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, for example, knelt and locked arms with players before the playing of the national anthem ahead of their game against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night, Sept. 25.
When the anthem began playing, the Cowboys players and staff rose, with arms still linked. Garrett was later quoted by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as saying,
For whatever reasons the Cowboys adopted the nod, however, the demonstration was just that: an adoption. The original reason for kneeling during the national anthem was explained by the originator of the gesture himself.
Why did NFL players start kneeling?
The subject of protests by NFL players during the playing of the national anthem gained most attention when Colin Kaepernick was pictured sitting down during the playing of the national anthem during the third game of the NFL's 2016 preseason.
When asked why he didn't rise for the anthem, Kaepernick told NFL.com's Steve Wyche,
Kaepernick also added,
Days later, Kaepernick would respond to the accusation that he was disrespecting military members by not rising for the anthem. The quarterback said,
Days after that, it was reported Kaepernick met with Nate Boyer, a former NFL player and Army veteran. The meeting resulted in Kaepernick altering his protest to a kneel. Boyer later told HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,
Eventually, Kaepernick continued his protest into the regular season, with other NFL player joining him along the way. The player also pledged to donate $1 million to causes that aligned with his protest. Now a free agent, Kaepernick has said that he wouldn't have continued his protest during the 2017 regular season.
The player has still remained a free agent, though, leading to the perception that he was blackballed because of his protest.